Benefits / Resources / Articles
February 16, 2022

Challenge Yourself and Grow as a Photographer by Entering Your Work into District Competitions

Competition season is here! If you’ve never submitted your work to District Competitions before, no problem. Keep scrolling to get a better idea of the benefits of entering your work into photographic competition and how jurors evaluate your images.

There are so many benefits to entering photographic competitons but self-improvement is the focus of PPA's District Competitions and the International Photographic Competition. Rather than just pitting you against other photographers, PPA competitions give you a rare chance to get a straight-forward, unbiased review of your work from an experienced, knowledgeable professional. This type of constructive feedback will help you create better images for your clients and, in turn, build a better business. 

Early registration for this unique photography competition begins March 1, followed by a late registration period from April 14 to May 3. Judging will take place May 16-19. 

PPA Jurors use the 12 Elements to grade each image in competition on a 100-point scale, awarding each photographer one, two, or zero merits for each image they submit. Learn about these elements below and get your images ready!

The 12 Elements of a Merit Image

  1. Impact: Compelling images evoke emotion—laughter, sadness, anger, pride.
  2. Technical Excellence: The quality of the actual image as presented for viewing. Aspects such as retouching, sharpness, printing, color, and exposure should be spot on.
  3. Creativity: The image is original, fresh, and an external expression of the maker’s imagination.
  4. Style: The subject matter meshes with the presentation. Style can also include the distinct ways that an artist applies his or her specific lighting, posing, or compositional style to underscore the desired impact.
  5. Composition: The visual elements of an image come together to express intent, whether to please the viewer or otherwise. The viewer’s attention is captured and directed where the artist plans it to be.
  6. Presentation: The way an image is showcased gives it a finished look. Everything in the presentation—mats, borders, color choices—should work to enhance the image.  
  7. Color Balance: Colors work together to evoke feelings in the viewer. For example, it can bring harmony to an image and enhance the emotional appeal. It can also be incongruous to arouse diverse feelings.
  8. Center of Interest: This is where an image’s creator wants a viewer’s attention focused. There may be primary and secondary centers of interest. Sometimes all the elements in an image work together to create the center of interest.
  9. Lighting: The image demonstrates excellence in the use and control of light, whether natural or additive. Light informs dimensions and shape, sets tone and mood, and enhances the image.
  10. Subject Matter: The subject matter is central to the story being told, so the subject should sync with the story.
  11. Technique: The approaches used to create the image—lighting, posting, capture, presentation—work together to be effective.
  12. Storytelling: The image evokes the viewer's imagination. While the act of creating is a personal thing, so too is the act of viewing. Each image is a story, and the one it tells a viewer may be unique to that person.

For even more information about the 12 elements, check out these PPAedu videos taught by Michael Timmons, M.Photog.M.Artist.Hon.M.Photog.Cr., CPP, F-ASP: 

And for a different angle on understanding the elements, this article from Professional Photographer magazine includes a mind map to explain how the elements work together to create powerful works of photography.


Submit your work today!